Healthcare marketing amid a pandemic: 2 leaders weigh in

COVID-19 has transformed healthcare operations and clinical protocols. It's also forced hospital marketing teams to reshuffle priorities and rethink their approaches to reaching patients.

During Becker's Patient Experience + Marketing Virtual Forum on Sept. 2, a panel of two marketing leaders discussed the toughest specialties to market and how their marketing strategies have shifted amid the pandemic. Panelists were Caryn Stancik, chief communications and marketing officer with Chicago-based Cook County Health, and Heather Valentine, assistant vice president of marketing and communications with Loma Linda (Calif.) University Health.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation slightly edited for length and clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Question: What were the toughest specialties to market pre-pandemic? Are they the same today or has that changed?

Heather Valentine: For us, some of the most challenging specialties traditionally have really been the subspecialties or the very, very specialized surgeries or treatments that most people aren't really aware of. A lot of those specialties and surgeries are revenue drivers for the hospitals. They are highly profitable, but a challenge to market. That's still true.

Amid the pandemic, though, our overall approach to marketing has shifted. Ten to 12 years ago, we were focused on branding and just talking about who we were and we're a great hospital. Then that strategy shifted to a very data-driven, service-line specific approach to marketing. We still did some of that general brand stuff, but we really focused on direct to the people who could utilize these services, using data in a way that we hadn't before. But now I almost feel like our approach has shifted back to where it was years ago. A big reason for that is to address patient hesitancy. We want people to know we're here and that we have protocols in place to keep them safe.

Caryn Stancik: A lot of what Heather said resonates with our experience, particularly reminding everybody that we're here and we're available. We're an organization that's been around 180 years, and health equity is at the core of our mission. But around the specialty conversation, I think there are some differences between our organizations. We have spent the better part of our existence being kind of that place of sick care. We have, like the rest of the healthcare industry, tried to shift to an outpatient strategy and focus on prevention. We are trying to get our patients from the emergency room to primary care. We want them to show up for care before it's an emergency situation. We're really focused on getting chronic illness patients who've delayed care in the doors and let them know we've taken the necessary precautions.


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